Greece: a rare case of an effective conservative government
By talking less, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis has achieved a lot more
As the Government demonstrates every day, actually being conservative can be difficult for a conservative party. A hostile press can present any deviation from Left-liberal norms as a dark slide towards fascism, while civil servants can stymie reforms, leaving governing parties to ineffectually announce policies they cannot deliver. Not so in Greece, however, where the ruling conservative New Democracy party, which goes to the polls this weekend in a challenging election, has instituted markedly Right-wing governance while maintaining an international reputation as boringly competent centre-Right technocrats.
Take immigration, where the previous Left-wing SYRIZA government’s open-borders approach to the 2015 migration crisis was wrongfooted by Germany’s sudden border closure, transforming Greece’s eastern islands into the EU’s holding camp. As immigration — linked with national security through Turkey’s weaponisation of migrants — became a hot-button issue among Greek voters, New Democracy’s leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis won plaudits through his hard-nosed approach.
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Migrants are now routinely pushed back at sea, the unpopular Northern European NGOs blamed for accelerating the flow are squeezed, and a new secure border wall has stemmed the flow across Greece’s heavily-militarised land border with Turkey. Shrugging off criticism, Mitsotakis told AP recently that:
Law and order is another controversial issue in Greece, where the police force has long been a hotbed of radical Right-wing sentiment. Immediately on coming to power, Mitsotakis revived the Greek police’s crack motorcycle unit — often used to break up violent demonstrations by radical Left-wing groups — which had been disbanded by SYRIZA, and boosted its ranks by recruiting military special forces. Perhaps the police has been given too free a rein: the opposition alleges an internal culture of lawlessness and brutality — including rape, excessive violence, and links with organised crime. Yet Greece’s Minister of Civil Protection Takis Theodorikakos recently called these accusations “slanderous” and “nationally damaging”, insisting that “our daily concern in practice is the safety of citizens, which is why we put an end to the lawlessness and delinquency.”
But a recent wiretapping scandal, in which the Greek EYP intelligence service — which Mitsotakis placed under his direct control as part of the new “executive state” — was discovered to have been bugging the leader of the centre-Left PASOK party, has taken some of the lustre off the Prime Minister’s international reputation, though New Democracy insists the surveillance was justified by national security. For European Green parties, which have long taken issue with New Democracy’s border policies, the disclosure is a rule of law outrage, aligning with criticism that New Democracy’s state-funded patronage of conservative media has downgraded the country’s press freedom, now listed by Reporters Without Borders as the worst in the EU.
But for the mainstream European centre-Right, it’s not an issue at all. Applauded by the international press for economic reforms which have steered Greece out of the worst of its generation-defining crisis, New Democracy is firmly supported by the centre-Right EPP grouping in the European Parliament, and is the frontrunner in this weekend’s election — even if it looks unlikely to be able to form a government outright in the first round. Potential excesses aside, perhaps there’s a lesson here for Rishi Sunak. Evidently voters are indulgent towards governments that deliver basic economic competence, robust law and order, and effective border management: by talking less, you can get away with more.
Certainly we could all do with Governments that remember their duty is to their citizens and not the rest of the world.
This article implies that Greece has joined Poland and Hungary. Any more?
An encouraging article which, as an aside, offers a pithy diagnosis of why today’s conservative governments so often fail – left dominated media, left dominated civil service – to say nothing of academe.
Conservatism, as distinct from more consciously ideological right wing movements (Nationalism, Free Trade etc), is at a disadvantage when confronting this sort of opposition, given that the very institutions expressing it have value in conservative eyes.
Worse, the right’s modern enemies, being themselves members of the elite, are on intimate terms with their victims. And in personal confrontation, doubtful, compassionate, conscientious conservatives will almost always be browbeaten and demoralised by cold, fanatical, ruthless leftists.
The conclusion can only be that the right must once again, as it did under Mrs Thatcher, recover a sense of ideological conviction in response to the urgent necessities of our day. And it must do so in conscious opposition to those areas of public life now made strongholds of an arrogant, out of control left.
As Thatcher closed the mines, the British right – if it is to have a chance of success – must disband the quangos, purge the judiciary, depoliticise the police, close down whole branches of government and abolish the BBC – and it must do so within a month of gaining office. The ride will be rough but worth it, and better far than continuing to sink towards renewed socialism.
A hostile press can present any deviation from Left-liberal norms as a dark slide towards fascism, …
This. When the fire in which we burn is, by default, Left-liberal norms. But I have a suspicion that beneath that is the fuel of some other ideology, perhaps WEF and ESG etc.?
I so love Greece and The Greeks
I pray that The Greeks will succeed in hitting the Boche Hun squareheads for massive WW2 reparations
And to finish the last sentence ‘ …remain in the EU and Singel Market, rather than jump off a cliff with everyone else tied to the suicide jacket like the clowns in some other European country’.
It was being in the EU and the single currency that largely condemned Greece to a catastrophic recession in the first place, not to mention landing it with a migration crisis that no other EU nation appears to want to assist them with
Strange they’ve not Grekit then isn’t it?
In fact on the first point there is something in how ECB and Germany esp handled some elements but most of the decisions leading to major problems had been Greek made. They didn’t leave as would have been worse.
Their refugee/immigration pressure is a symptom of geography and not the EU. They aren’t inundated with migrants from the EU as sure you know.
Now we are much better located geographically but hey post Brexit we’ve more than trebled immigration. Was that the plan? And nobody to blame anymore.
If it wasn’t for the single currency then it simply wouldn’t have ended in the catastrophic nature it did, the drachma would have devalued, exports become cheaper, tourism improved due to being a cheap destination etc inflation would have been high for a while and eventually it would have settled down. Instead the Euro simply acts to keep German exports cheaper than they otherwise would be, at the expense of those poorer Mediterranean countries.
I don’t doubt their migrant problem is made worse by their geography, however they receive little help from other EU nations in that regard (much like Italy) Their immigration problems are different to those Britain had as an EU member as you say, the EU migration into Britain was used to suppress wages and push up property prices, hence the reason the working classes predominantly voted to leave in order to give the elected government the opportunity to prevent it from happening.
The fact the Tories have instead ramped up immigration lies solely with them, and they will likely be punished for it at the next election
Yes many did suggest being part of the Euro was the problem, but leaving that could have been even more catastrophic as many economists suggested and the Greek Govt made that judgment and stayed. The fact they had such a hard time is suggestive they had weighed up the balance v considerably when choosing to stay.
As regards illegal migration – the EU has helped by paying Turkey considerable amount to stem the flow. It works to a point. But it is a v difficult challenge without simple answers, as we know even though on the far Western edge of Europe. Albeit we do pay the French alot to patrol sand dunes, which must please them, and we have placed a down payment with Rwanda without much benefit to date.
And yes the Tories, Johnson, Patel, Braverman, lied about immigration, repeatedly, and haven’t been honest with you or the rest of us. Nonetheless I sense the national mood has moved a bit with a better understanding of why we need an appreciable amount of ‘legal’ immigration as the shortages in certain areas has become more apparent. Not that this 750k net would be supported though. I think those now pretending it’s nothing to do with them, not their fault etc still largely fail to outline the measures they’d put in place, including how to fund the industrial and educational strategy to develop our own workforce such that we rely less on migrants. Or how long the transition might take. You’ve had 7 years to tell us I think.
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